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Saints' Rios will get to play at Wrigley Field

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published July 30. 2013 4:00AM
Tim Martin/The Day
Willie Rios of St. Bernard pitches in a game against Plainfield at Dodd Stadium in Norwich on May 6. Rios has been selected to play in the All-American Baseball Game at Wrigley Field.

Some high school students are spending their summer vacations at the beach.

Willie Rios will be spending a few days of his vacation playing at Wrigley Field.

Rios, who'll be a senior pitcher at St. Bernard School, found out Monday that he was chosen to play in the Under Armour All-American Baseball Game at Wrigley Field on Aug. 24. It will be broadcast on the MLB Network (2:30 p.m.)

"I had found out that I was nominated," Rios said, "but I didn't think that I had any chance of making it. Not because of talent, but all the kids I'll play against have been on the national stage a lot more than I've been.

"I didn't know what to say (when he got the phone call). I was in shock. It's one of those things where I'm like, 'Is this really happening right now, or am I dreaming?'"

Rios, a left-hander, was one of 36 players chosen to play in the game, which features the nation's best high school players.

They'll spend four days in Chicago and will have a formal workout in front of Major League Baseball scouts. Over the last five years, 118 of 138 draft-eligible players who played in the All-American game were chosen in the first-year player draft.

There's some irony to the honor Rios, who has given Maryland a verbal commitment, wasn't named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Class S All-State team.

"He works so hard," St. Bernard coach George Rivera said. "He finishes pitching, most kids go home to dinner. He goes and runs three miles. He's constantly in the batting cage. ... I've told him at times to go be a kid and relax for a minute, especially with hitting. You can drive yourself nuts.

"It's a well-deserved honor. Here's a kid that went 9-1 with over 100 strikeouts, and he didn't make All-State but was chosen to the Under Armour game is just unbelievable. It just shows how really good he is."

Wrigley will be the second big league field Rios has played on this summer. He took part in a Perfect Game National Showcase earlier this month at Minneapolis' Metrodome, the former home of the Minnesota Twins.

"I'm going from being in a minor league ball park (Dodd Stadium in Norwich) to being at the Metrodome to being at Wrigley Field," Rios said.

n.griffen@theday.com

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